Light therapy for multiple sclerosis-associated fatigue: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

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Abstract

Background:

Fatigue is the most commonly reported symptom among multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, more than a quarter of whom consider fatigue to be their most disabling symptom. However, there are few effective treatment options for fatigue. We aim to investigate whether supplemental exposure to bright white light will reduce MS-associated fatigue.

Methods:

Eligible participants will have clinically confirmed multiple sclerosis based on the revised McDonald criteria (2010) and a score ≥36 on the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS). Participants will be randomized 1:1 to bright white light (10,000 lux; active condition) or dim red light (<300 lux; control condition) self-administered for 1 hour twice daily. The study will include a 2-week baseline period, a 4-week treatment period, and a 4-week washout period. Participants will record their sleep duration, exercise, caffeine, and medication intake daily. Participants will record their fatigue using the Visual Analogue Fatigue Scale (VAFS) 4 times every third day, providing snapshots of their fatigue level at different times of day. Participants will self-report their fatigue severity using FSS on 3 separate visits: at baseline (week 0), following completion of the treatment phase (week 6), and at study completion (week 10). The primary outcome will be the change in the average FSS score after light therapy. We will perform an intention-to-treat analysis, comparing the active and control groups to assess the postintervention difference in fatigue levels reported on FSS. Secondary outcome measures include change in global VAFS scores during the light therapy and self-reported quality of life in the Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life-54.

Discussion:

We present a study design and rationale for randomizing a nonpharmacological intervention for MS-associated fatigue, using bright light therapy. The study limitations relate to the logistical issues of a self-administered intervention requiring frequent participant self-report in a relapsing condition. Ultimately, light therapy for the treatment of MS-associated fatigue may provide a low-cost, noninvasive, self-administered treatment for one of the most prevalent and burdensome symptoms experienced by people with MS.

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